When Good Intentions Go Astray: Policy Framing Processes and the Europeanization of Children's Rights

Publication Date01 May 2015
DOI10.1111/1467-856X.12027
AuthorIngi Iusmen
SubjectArticle
When Good Intentions Go Astray: Policy Framing Processes and the Europeanization of Childrens Rights
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doi: 10.1111/1467-856X.12027
B J P I R : 2 0 1 5 V O L 1 7 , 3 3 5 – 3 5 0
When Good Intentions Go Astray:
Policy Framing Processes and the
Europeanization of Children’s Rights

Ingi Iusmen
Research Highlights and Abstract

Empirical evidence of how Commission policy framing processes shape the
Europeanization of Member States

Analytical and empirical evidence of how and why Commission services develop and
promote divergent policy frames in relation to children’s rights

Challenges faced by the EU’s promotion of policy measures that have a cross-sectoral
dimension

Analytical and empirical evidence of how Commission services conceive their legal
role and scope with respect to children’s rights
This article examines how and why Commission policy framing processes impact on the
Europeanization of children’s rights at the national level. By employing the Hotline for Missing
Children as a case study, it is demonstrated that Commission services failed to adopt a coherent
policy line regarding the issue of missing children. Instead, Commission services promoted conflict-
ing Hotline templates, which conveyed mixed messages and shaped the differential implementation
of the Hotline at the national level. The contradictory Hotline templates are rooted in Commission
services’ embrace of divergent policy frames, which are determined by institutional fragmentation
and conflicting interpretations of Commission legal competence to address the issue of missing
children and the protection of child rights.

Keywords: children’s rights; Europeanization; European Commission; policy
frames
Introduction
The European Union (EU) has embraced the promotion of children’s rights inside
and outside Europe since the mid-2000s. By adopting specific child-related meas-
ures, the Commission, under the leadership of Directorate General (DG) Justice,
endeavoured to change and, hence, Europeanize Member States’ policy structures
upholding children’s rights. Commission actions to uphold child rights at the
national level, also described as the ‘Europeanization of child rights’ (Stalford and
Kilkelly 2012), reflect the broader Europeanization processes whereby the EU
impacts upon national policies, politics and polity (Ladrech 2010; Börzel 2002;
Radaelli 2003; Börzel and Risse 2003). In taking up the issue of children’s rights
inside the EU, therefore, DG Justice, in line with its legal mandate, intended to
© 2013 The Author. British Journal of Politics and International Relations © 2013
Political Studies Association


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I N G I I U S M E N
address the violation of child rights at the national level by Europeanizing national
policies. However, the Commission is a complex multi-organisation (Cram 1994),
whose DGs perceive problems, process information and engage with stakeholders
independently. Consequently, often the actions taken by one DG are not coherently
coupled to actions in other parts of the Commission, which renders policymaking
ambiguous and inconsistent (March 1997). Institutional fragmentation, therefore,
specifically in areas, such as child rights, where EU competence is contested
(Lenschow and Zito 1998), tends to yield the adoption of divergent policy frames by
Commission services.
This article examines the impact of policy framing processes on the Europeanization
of Member States’ child rights policies by employing the Hotline for Missing Chil-
dren as a case study. So how and why do Commission policy framing processes
shape the Europeanization of children’s rights at the national level? What is
the relationship between the Commission services’ policy framing and the
Europeanization of Member States? It is argued that that the two Commission
services, i.e. DG Justice and DG Information Society and Media (INFSO), respon-
sible for the Hotline have embraced conflicting Hotline templates—rooted in diver-
gent policy frames—which have shaped its implementation at the national level.
Reflecting contested competence and institutional fragmentation, the conflicting
policy frames and their respective Hotline templates conveyed mixed messages
at the national level: Member States which activated the number pursued the
DG Justice’s template, whilst those who failed to do so, endorsed DG INFSO’s.
The findings of this article provide analytical and empirical insights into an
unresearched area, namely the relationship between Commission policy framing
processes and Europeanization effects at the national level. Therefore, the key
contribution made by this article consists of demonstrating how the lack of frame
convergence in fragmented multi-organisations, such as the Commission, shapes
the impact of the EU at the national level. The empirical findings1 of this article
draw on triangulated data collection methodology, which includes qualitative inter-
views and surveys with EU officials, national authorities and children’s rights
organisations, and analysis of EU and national policy and legal documents. This
article proceeds as follows: the first section explores the relationship between the
Europeanization framework and policy framing processes, while the second section
provides the empirical case of the Hotline for Missing Children. Section three
scrutinises how and why Commission efforts, led by DG Justice, to Europeanize the
issue of missing children at the national level have encountered substantial obsta-
cles, while the final section assesses how and why the contradictory Hotline tem-
plates, grounded in divergent policy frames and endorsed by Commission services,
have determined the Europeanization effects at the national level.
Europeanization and Policy Framing
The Europeanization literature has examined extensively how EU processes impact
on the policies and institutional structures of the Member States (Börzel 2003;
Bulmer and Radaelli 2004; Cowles et al. 2001; or Graziano and Vink 2007).
The Europeanization scholarship, therefore, explores the multi-faceted nature of
European integration by illustrating its top-down (Ladrech 2010) or bottom-up
© 2013 The Author. British Journal of Politics and International Relations © 2013 Political Studies Association
BJPIR, 2015, 17(2)

E U R O P E A N I Z AT I O N O F C H I L D R E N ’ S R I G H T S
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(McCauley 2011) effects. Broadly defined, Europeanization processes describe the
domestic adaptation to regional integration (Graziano and Vink 2007, 7). It is
contended that the EU generates differential impact at the national level due to
national mediating factors or the ‘goodness of fit’ between the EU ‘factor’ (laws,
policy measures etc.) and the national context (Börzel and Risse 2003). Indeed, the
impact of the EU on national structures is uneven due to the filtering role played by
domestic factors, which interpret and adjust the Europeanization effects on the
ground. In short, Europeanization has been conceptualised as a two-way process:
first, processes unfold at the EU level, and subsequently they yield an uneven
impact at the national level (Bulmer and Radaelli 2004, 4).
The Europeanization scholarship, however, generally presupposes that the Com-
mission acts as a unitary and coherent actor, and therefore, the EU ‘factor’, which
impacts upon national structures, is wholeheartedly embraced by all Commission
services. Yet, the lack of intra-institutional coherence is even more salient regarding
those sectors, such as child rights, where institutional competence is contested and
the policy process is deeply fragmented (Kassim 1994). Indeed, by embracing a role
in the protection of children’s rights in the mid-2000s, the Commission, under the
leadership of DG Justice, Freedom and Security (JLS) (now DG Justice) endeav-
oured to adopt and promote a coherent and integrated policy line targeting chi-
ldren’s rights across Europe and generating an added value at the national level
(European Commission 2006). Furthermore, the EU’s lack of general competence
in child rights (European Commission 2006, 7), points towards a soft law and
non-legally binding model of transformation advanced by the Commission at the
national level. Thus, the Europeanization of the Member States’ children’s rights
policies has been fraught, from the outset, with a wide range of challenges, such as
Commission intra-institutional policy coherence, along with the need to promote
actions bolstered by competence and added value claims. Additionally, the intra-
institutional coherence of Commission backed policies influences how the ‘national
mediating factors, that can enable of prohibit domestic change’ (Börzel and Risse
2000, 12), filter the EU’s impact at the national level.
The fragmentation of the Commission policy process—where different Commission
services perceive problems and issue-areas independently (Cram 1994)—implicitly
affects policy outcomes. How different Commission DGs approach issues and devise
policy solutions have been described as a ‘framing’ process (Mazey and Richardson
1993; Christiansen 1997). Framing is usually defined as a way of selecting and
organising aspects of complex issues in order to provide guidelines for analysing,
interpreting and acting (Rein and Schön 1991). A frame, therefore, defines the
nature of the issue-area and determines the key aspects of the policy process, such
as which problem is being addressed, which actors are involved and which policy
instruments are the most appropriate (Rhinard 2010, 2). Given the Commission’s
institutional and policy fragmentation, along with the unclear...

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